Part of the joy of summer is listening to music, whether it’s outside on a sunny day, by the water, at the cottage, or out for a jog. And often times, the summer songs that give us pleasure aren’t necessarily new. Listening to old(er/ish) songs during summer has a unique power: it can place us in a memory from the distant past, make time seem to stand still, and fill a moment with pure, unencumbered peace. It has the power to conspire with the elements, warm, sun-filled air, whistling trees, and roving clouds, to make one smile. That’s some kind of experience.
I’ve decided to issue a list of the “oldies” that helped make my summer a special one. Here are the top ten songs I listened to this summer that are not from 2014.
10. Pablito Ruiz – Oceano
Thanks Daniel for this one. I was linked to a story that suggested Tame Impala’s “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards” ripped off the melody from this old South American pop song. I think the assertion is a steaming pile of bile, but one good thing came of it: I was introduced to this awesome pop ditty. So Menudo. So Melody. So my main man, Pablito.
9. The National – Bloodbuzz Ohio
Still so poignant. Still so frothing with everyman hurt. Still amazing.
8. New Pornographers – Bleeding Heart Show
I come back to this song pretty often, but this summer, I spinned it a few times, and its magic awoke something wonderful in me. It’s how it’s divided in two, AC Newman’s plaintive croon in the first half, and the most pie-in-the-sky thing the New Pornographers have ever done, the second half, where the music takes off, and Neko, dear Neko, soars. There is no end to the enjoyment I get from hearing, mouthing, and singing, “We have arrived, too late to play, the bleeding heart show.”
7. Morrissey – Every Day Is Like Sunday
A little embarrassed and a little miffed that I just discovered this gem over the summer. “Every Day Is Like Sunday” is a tune that represents what I love most about Morrissey, on his own or with The Smiths: rainy, gloomy, gutterific lyrics buoyed by sun-drenched music and coruscating melodies.
6. Daniel Lanois – The Maker
HOW!? How in the world!? How in the world had I not heard this treasure before this summer? No answer I can proffer would be a justification, so I simply shrug my shoulders and say, I missed it. But on the bright side, at least this gorgeous song, a classic by any definition, with its indelible guitar riff and fantastic lyrics, is new to my ears. Speaking of the bright side, the reason I came to this song was by way of The Killers. As they’re wont to do, they typically perform at least one cover song during each of their shows, and said cover typically has some special meaning to the city in which they’re playing. When they visited Quebec City in July, they performed this piece of magic by Daniel Lanois, who was born in Quebec. (Aside: The Tea Party have also covered this song in the past, and awesomely, are including a version of it on their new album, The Ocean At The End.)
5. The Temper Trap – Love Lost
If “Love Lost” was lost on me before, it isn’t any more. It’s not as if I didn’t like the song when I first discovered The Temper Trap, it’s probably more of a case where “Sweet Disposition”‘s star was so enormous and bright that it cast shade on every other song on Conditions. So I missed connecting with “Love Lost” at the time. This has been rectified. It’s a wonderful song with great keyboards, guitars, and of course, as always, a smouldering Dougy Mandagi vocal.
4. Manchester Orchestra – I Can Feel A Hot One
I think “I Can Feel A Hot One” is one of the best 10 songs of the past 10 years. I feel quite strongly about that statement. The song absolutely slayed me the first time I heard it, and time has not loosened its grip on my ears, my heart. “I Can Feel A Hot One” is one of the most spine-tingling, powerful, sad, destructive, instructive, songs I’ve ever heard. It is, without a shadow of a doubt, one of the best songs I’ve ever heard. I keep coming back to it. I always — always — will.
3. Matthew Good – Born Losers
“Well there ain’t nothing to this but your daughter, and the life you would not give her, break your plans.” This line gets me every fucking time. It’s the lyric itself, but the way Matthew Good sings it is incredible. There is no confusing Matthew Good’s intent as he sings it; it’s all he’s saying — it’s all he means. Fully. Whatever comes of it. It’s been said. I wonder what this song means to him, seven years after its release. It still means so damn much to me. My favourite song by Mr. Good. His best, I do believe.
Bonus: Non Populus
I came across a song I’d never heard by Matthew Good this summer, “Non Populus”. What a track. An epic sprawl of guitars, the song had me by the throat after one listen. “Let it be done to you…” No problem, I’m down.
2. La Roux – As If By Magic/I’m Not Your Toy
La Roux’s self-titled debut album, five years later, remains incredible. “Bulletproof”, “Quicksand”, “Reflections Are Protection”, “Colourless Colour”, “Cover My Eyes”, et al were amazing the first time I heard them, and they’ve remained so. What’s become clear to me too, is that there are two songs that should have been huge hits, but for reasons unknown, were not. “Bulletproof” is a classic pop song, of this there can be no debate. But I firmly believe “As If By Magic” and “I’m Not Your Toy” are right there with it. Played both of these tracks ad nauseam this summer.
1. The Tea Party – Psychopomp
As I played “Psychopomp” over and over and over and over this summer, a thought dawned on me: it could be the best song The Tea Party has ever done, the best song by a Canadian band ever. I’m not saying this as an incontrovertible fact, but it can’t be ruled out. It’s the unparalleled musicianship. It’s, of course, the melody. It’s clearly, utterly, the lyrics. It’s how the indomitable Jeff Martin begins the track admonishing the listener with some kind of dark peace. It’s how the dominating Jeff Martin sings the second half with a raucous rage, a fiery belly embedded with a ferocious beauty. It’s not as if by magic. It most definitely is.